AVON, October 28 – As the head coach of the Avon High football team for 10 years from 2003 through 2012, Brett Quinion wasn’t shy about running the football. Ross McDonald and John Rowley each ran for over 1,000 yards in multiple seasons while Colin Moore twice ran over 2,000 yards in a season.
Quinion still loves to run the ball.
His Northwest Catholic football team rushed for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns Friday night under the lights against Avon and held the ball for 9:08 in the second quarter to help the Lions to a 13-0 victory over the Falcons under temporary lighting at the high school as part of the Spirit Week celebration.
Avon, which drops to 0-7 with a seventh straight loss, has scored just two touchdowns and 14 points in the last three games.
“It’s unfortunate,” Avon’s first-year coach Sal Cintorino said. “Some mistakes are hurting us. The kids are dying to win. We need to find a way to get over the hump and put this chapter behind us.”
It was Quinion’s first game in Avon since he resigned following the 2012 campaign. He didn’t acknowledge the emotion of coming home – Quinion played at Avon in the 1970s – until the game had been completed. That was difficult with several former players on the sideline supporting their former head coach.
“I honestly look at each game and the task at hand,” Quinion said. “I feel I owe the kids that.”
Northwest Catholic isn’t a big team – physically or in numbers. There are just 30 players on the roster and injuries have taken their toll on the Lions. Two of the five captains were in regular clothes and on crutches to flip the coin before the game.
“We’re a passionate group of guys,” Quinion said. “We bend but we don’t break. We believe in running the ball and we do try to run the ball.”
Northwest Catholic’s ability to run the ball helped the Lions take a 13-point lead in the second quarter. Leading 7-0, the Lions took over on their own 10-yard line with 55 seconds left in the first quarter after an Avon punt.
Behind Spencer Merkel, who ran for a game-high 125 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, and quarterback Collin Farrell (18-99), the Lions put together an 18-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that ate up 9:08 — nearly the entire second quarter.
Twice, the Lions converted on third down and Farrell completed a 13-yard pass to Luke Fox on fourth down and nine to keep the drive alive. Northwest Catholic had seven first downs in the drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown run from Merkel and a 13-0 lead.
And on the kickoff, Avon fumbled away the ball after a nine-yard return with Cooper Lorenz recovering the ball. Northwest Catholic (4-3) didn’t get far but they ate up another two minutes. Avon began their second possession of the game with 1:03 remaining in the second quarter.
“If they needed three yards, they got four. If they needed four yards, they got five,” Cintorino said. “They got just 13 points but they held onto the ball for way too long.”
Avon was able to move the ball. On their first drive of the second half, the Falcons marched 50 yards on seven plays to the Northwest Catholic 27-yard line. Leading rusher Leon Asberry (17 carries, 92 yards) carried the bulk of the load on the drive with 32 yards.
But the drive stalled when Farrell intercepted Avon QB Dylan Burgos in the end zone to end the threat with 7:12 remaining in the third quarter.
Asberry again ran well on Avon’s second drive of the second half that got as close as the Northwest Catholic 28-yard line before the drive died. Asberry was belted as he tried to get through the line for a two-yard gain and a first down.
“We’re at a point that we have to put this behind us. It’s like a chapter in a book,” Cintorino said. “We’ve put in a lot of time. It’s cold and there are a lot of things going on. The kids have just two options. Either we come back and work harder than we have or we go in a different direction.”
Avon plays at Rockville (2-5) next Friday night at 6:30 p.m. – trying secure their first win and avoid tying a school record for most losses to begin the season. The Falcons lost eight straight to open the 1985 season. Avon finished 2-9 that season.
NOTES: Northwest Catholic took an 11-10 lead in the overall series that began in 1982. … Avon’s Colin Moore ran for 2,142 yards in 2012 and rushed for a school record 2,206 yards as a junior in 2011. … John Rowley ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2005 and 2006 before finishing his career at Weaver in Hartford. … Ross McDonald rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2009 and 2010. … Quinion was 67-37 in 10 years in Avon, leading the Falcons to five Pequot Uncas championships and three CIAC playoff berths. After leaving Avon, Quinion spent a year as an assistant at New Britain before taking a year off. He took over at Northwest Catholic in 2015. … Quarters in high school football are just 12 minutes each.
Northwest Catholic 13, Avon 0
NW Catholic (4-3) 7 6 0 0 — 13
Avon (0-7) 0 0 0 0 — 0
NW: Spencer Merkel 19 run (Luke Fox kick), 6:11
NW: Merkel 10 run (kick fails), 3:43
RUSHING: NWC – Collin Farrell 18-99, Spencer Merkel 18-125, Sean Kearing 1-minus 2; Avon – Dylan Burgos 6-30, Leon Asberry 17-92, Jack Jones 1-2, Dan Quick 2-8
PASSING: NWC – Farrell 3-9-0, 25; Avon – Dylan Burgos 5-14-3, 66
RECEIVING: NWC — Kai Fleming 1-12, Luke Fox 1-13; Avon – Tommy Donovan 2-42, Leon Asberry 1-12, Peter Gerosa 2-12
RETURNS: Kickoff – Tyler Lebrun (A) 1-0, Jack Jones (A) 1-9, Spencer Jones (A) 1-13; Punts – Merkel (NW) 1-0
SACKS: Teyshawn Jackson (NW) 1-10, Ryan Ollestad (A) 1-9; FUMBLE RECOVERY: Cooper Lorenz (NWC), INTERCEPTIONS: Lorenz (NW) 1-0, Collin Farrell (NW) 2-20